Air travel hell and the Internet gurus

Have you noticed that air travel, which has hardly been joy the last few years, has gotten noticeably worse?

It’s not your imagination. It has.

Over 25% of flights don’t arrive on time. Customer complaints are up this year 49% over this time last year and this summer the average flight is booked 90%. When something goes wrong like a weather delay, the system falls into chaos.

As just one example, a friend booked to fly out of New York City on a Sunday had flights canceled on her on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning before she finally got a flight home Tuesday night.

And yet the airlines are making money again.

This seems to fly in the face of the idea that customer satisfaction is essential for creating a successful business. It is…but only if your customers have a choice If all the airlines let their service go to hell – which is exactly what they’ve done – then there’s no penalty for bad service.

Lest you think I’m being cynical, or worse yet conspiracy-minded, this theory is not unique to me. It was recently floated in Knowledge@Wharton, the online magazine of the Wharton School of Business.

This same principle seems to be at work in the Internet guru business and may explain why the “gurus” work so hard to keep a tight hold on their audiences, never acknowledging that anything exists outside their little world. It also explains why they run together in packs.

If they all agree to offer crap and their customers never encounter anything better, then the “gurus” can get away with practically anything. And they do.

A lot of marketplaces work this way and if you can take the heat and don’t mind being despised by your “competition,” offering an alternative to business-as-usual is a great business model.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

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One Response to Air travel hell and the Internet gurus

  1. Cathy Goodwin August 31, 2007 at 5:34 pm #

    I believe James Surowicki just made a similar point in the New Yorker magazine. The airlines continue to behave badly because they don’t feel the pain. Too many people have no choice: they *have* to travel.

    I find customer service on the Internet is appalling and have even written an ebook on the topic. I’m amazed at what people will pay — and not complain when they receive no value.

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